"16th of June Chinese stocks are goin’ up and I'm comin’ down with some new asian virus / ju ju man, ju ju man / doc says you’re fine or dyin’ / please / 909 st john divine."
One would have to argue that these few lines of lyrics are in reference to John Lennon, especially since it references Juju (West African Term used in the Beatles' Come Together in the lyric 'Juju Eyeball') as well as "St. John" (Lennon), and the number "909" (From the song 'One After 909' off of the Let It Be Album)
Much the same way Lennon, who is one of Bono's heroes, thought of the world, I think Bono is referring to this person who shows up at his doorstep like a corrupt politician or any other type of figure with rhetoric that says that they can fix all of the world's problems by "Telling us what we need to know" if we "Wanto to stay alive a bit longer" when in fact we should all be saying "There's nothing you have that I need . . ." In essence, the problems of the world need to be fixed by us individually by taking action "Walk out into the street and sing your heart out" This is so incredibly true with Bono's activism in the world today. I mean it is strange when we're coming down with some new Asian viruses when Chinese Stocks start going up (just an example of when someone's agenda is working at somebody else's expense most likely).
Ian Kelly IanKelly134gmail.com (25th of June 2009)
In addition to John Lennon, the 16th of June likely refers to James Joyce's Ulysses, which takes place entirely on that day in Dublin. The verses seem to also be a stylistic and thematic nod to the stream of consciousness style and chaotic and depraved feeling engendered by the novel.
It seems that Bono is not celebrating that feeling, but rather recognizing the chaos and overwhelming sense of being out of control that we experience both from outside forces (e.g. news cycle and economic forces that take on a life of their own as in "chinese stocks are going up") and from within (as in "the band in my head plays a striptease").
That is in contrast to the other theme of the pre-chorus and chorus of finding a way to be able to breathe, to live, to go on.
Bono's well known Christian faith is on display in the line "every day I die again and again I'm reborn" which ties into "got a love you can't defeat." These lines make reference to letting part of ourselves die - that part of ourselves which is controlled by fear and death and therefore sin that pits us against one another. But that dying happens with trust in one who gives life, so that one is able to be reborn to see new possibilities and to live for God and for one another without fear. Love that is willing to walk out into the street with arms out to all is fearless love, and it can conquer any power or threat set against it, as in 1 John 4:18 "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
In case this theme were in any doubt, it is continued at the end of the song with the line "I've found grace, it's all that I've found that I need - I can breathe."
Finally the whole of the song is brilliantly captured by the title and chorus image of being able to breathe. First there is the sense of coming up for air when overwhelmed by a torrent of forces. But that air, that breath represents the power not only to gasp for what is needed in the moment, it represents the power to live in the face of fear and death, without fear. Breath is obviously vital to life, and it also represents the spirit of life, as in fact the word "spirit" in many languages is actually related to breath (e.g. reSPIRation in English, RUACH in Hebrew, PNEUMATI in Greek, and etc. So the overwhelming becomes less so and the things that would keep us from walking out into the street and loving one another become less frightening once we find that we can breathe and go on breathing - that there is a power of life which is stronger than the power of death and fear.
Matthew Geerdes farcriershotmail.com ( 3rd of September 2010)